Diversify Your Personal Life
We’ve written extensively these past few months in our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion series on the importance of DEI in the workplace. We’ve also written on how companies can become more diverse.
But we haven’t touched on how to bring more diversity into your personal life.
In fact, if we increase diversity in our personal relationships, it can only help the companies at which we work to become more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. The more DEI becomes the “norm” in all aspects of American culture, the more it will grow.
In fact, we believe it will pretty much become second nature in our culture.
First, a little self-assessment is in order
How many people in your personal network – especially close friends – are of a different race than you? How many are older/younger? How many are disabled? Any LGBTQ folks in your orbit?
How close are they? Family members? Co-workers? Friends from college or even high school/childhood? Do you have at least one person you would consider extremely close to you (family member or friend)? If not, do you think of them as friends of circumstance (you see them at work, or they’re close friends of a close friend, so you see them at parties)?
There’s no right or wrong answer here: you’re just trying to ascertain how many “diverse” people come into your orbit regularly.
Similar is Comfy
People do tend to hang out with people who look like them, like the same things as they do, even think about the world in the same way. This comes to us from our hunter/gatherer ancestors. In a world full of danger lurking everywhere, the “familiar” became “safe.” Historically, people have hung out with people who are exceedingly familiar in looks, outlook, and – as time went on – in education level, occupation, religious beliefs, and so on.
But – happy news – studies over the years have shown that the more time we spend with people different from us, the more we like each other. We become familiar with each other, and familiar is comfy, too.
The pandemic has taught us many things and among them is the fact that “same old, same old” in our everyday lives is, well, boring.
Having a more diverse close friend group will only improve your life tremendously: you’ll learn new ways of seeing the world, you’ll learn new things, you’ll have new experiences, you’ll go different places.
Most importantly, you’ll experience the world through a different set of eyes.
Easy ways to get to know someone
Invite someone of a different race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age (at least 15 years younger or older than you), etc., to your home for dinner.
Or, if you feel that would put too much pressure on both of you because you don’t know each other well enough, ask them out for lunch or dinner at a restaurant.
Then, if you feel a certain spark of friendship or friendly interest, no matter how small, ask about heading out to a movie, for a hike on the weekend, to a baseball game or, to your house for the potluck you’re planning. That is, look for common interests and then build on those.
And, as you do so, start asking more questions about their personal life, goals, dreams, etc. And tell them yours.
Doesn’t matter what you do or where: it just matters that you work on building a friendship that grows and deepens. And the only real way to do so is to see someone in different settings and open yourself up to them. To become somewhat vulnerable and become more so over time (as you each start to trust each other).
And what did that feel like?
Work to listen to each other without judgement.
You’re asking someone you don’t know really well (but want to know better) a question and then working to listen to their answer without judgement.
The idea is to find a way to relate to each other’s reality. To make it a tiny bit of your own.
You may even become close friends, friends who see each other on a regular basis.
Your life – and the country’s overall culture – will benefit greatly.
What has been your experience in bringing more diversity into your personal life?
Have you made a conscious effort to do so in the last few months? How has that gone? Do you plan to do so? Why do you plan to?